Friday, October 30, 2015

Edgar Allan Poe-America's Pocket Author

Edgar Allan Poe often began his stories with epigrams, often in other languages. He also liked to throw into his text foreign words, phrases, and sayings. So I'll begin today with a word from another language, carina. It's an Italian word and it means cute. The root of the word is cara--dear or beloved. The suffix -ina makes it diminutive, thus carina, literally, little dear or little beloved. Carina and Cara (or Kara, my niece's name) have passed into our language as girl's names. They are lovely names and carry lovely sentiments, but I would expect nothing less from Italy and its wonderful people.

So it occurs to me that Edgar Allan Poe is America's pocket author. What do I mean by that? Well, he wrote stories and poems that have been collected in pocket editions--you can see some examples below--but that's not exactly it. What I mean is that Poe is America's little beloved author. Maybe beloved isn't quite the right word. Treasured might be closer to the truth. He wrote little works--short stories and poems--that we have taken to our hearts in a way that seems to me unique. Charles Brockden Brown is too remote. His works are too large and perhaps too flawed. Washington Irving is a beloved author, too, but for only a couple of stories. Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson are admired by many, but they were writers of non-fiction. They don't quite capture the imagination. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville are too dark, dense, and weighty. Mark Twain is beloved but too big and expansive, and perhaps too cynical and biting. Louisa May Alcott and Willa Cather are also beloved. My Ántonia is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read I think. Both are known for their novels, however. Bret Harte, Stephen Crane, and Ambrose Bierce might be candidates for America's pocket author, but they don't quite make it. None is especially beloved. I can't even imagine saying "the beloved author Ambrose Bierce." That leaves Emily Dickinson, also a  little author and perhaps Poe's main rival for the title. By the time you get to the twentieth century, there aren't many authors from which to choose. Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger wrote some fine short works, but even they can't match Poe. I guess what I'm getting at, too, is that Poe is beloved or treasured by children. He might be the first serious American author whom children read and learn to recognize. He might be the first they search out. That counts for a lot. Maybe they see something in him with which they can identify, a childlike quality, an appeal to the young heart, mind, and imagination, or an author who wrote romantic expressions of love, fear, and tragedy. Maybe that's why there have been so many little books made of his stories and poems. Anyway, here are some covers of carina books from my collection. Happy Halloween to all readers of weird tales!

Eight Tales of Terror (Scholastic, 1961, 1972). This book and the book below are in the small mass-market paperback format, small enough to fit in your pocket.

Ten Great Mysteries (Scholastic, 1960, 1970).

The Raven and Other Selections (Fleming H. Revell Company, 1967), a small hardbound edition.

Visions of Darkness (Hallmark Editions, 1971), another small hardback.

Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Whitman, 1972). This book isn't quite pocket-sized, but it is a book intended for children.

Three Tales of Horror (Penguin, 1995), which includes stories by Poe, Bierce, and Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a very small paperback and one of a series. The cover art is by Goya.

Note: Click on the authors in bold for links.
Text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, October 26, 2015

Botanical Fiction Database

I don't ordinarily provide links to other sites, but recently I found one that probably every fan of fantasy and science fiction should know about. The site itself is called The Fish in Prison. The page to which I'd like to refer you is called "Botanical Fiction." The URL is as follows (click on it for the link):

The author of the site is Dr. Timothy S. Miller of Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Dr. Miller received his Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame. If he'll accept the honor, we'll call him a Hoosier.

The Botanical Fiction Database isn't quite a database yet. Dr. Miller calls it instead a "Timeline of Botanical Fictions." It begins with "Rappaccini's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1844 and reprinted in Weird Tales in May 1928. There are many other stories from Weird Tales in Dr. Miller's list, including "The Blood Flower" by Seabury Quinn, which was reprinted in The Adventures of Jules de Grandin, a book from one of my recent postings. In fact, a lot of the stories on his list are from Weird Tales. The John Carstairs series by Frank Belknap Long is not. This is the first I have heard of the series. It's about a botanical detective. As a forester, part-time botanizer, reader of detective fiction, and (bewildered) explorer of the mysteries of life, I want to read the series exactly right now.

I have written a little about plants in two of my last three postings. They have led me first in an unintended way, then in an intended way, to today's posting. By the way, I wrote more on plants in "Trees and Other Plants on the Cover of Weird Tales" on February 11, 2014. Click on the title for a link.

Copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, October 23, 2015

Thomas Lanier Williams (1911-1983)

Aka Tennessee Williams
Playwright, Author, Poet, Movie Scenarist
Born March 26, 1911, Columbus, Mississippi
Died February 25, 1993, New York, New York

Time was when American literature was dominated by authors you could place into about three categories: Jewish writers, Chicago-area writers, and Southern or Southern Gothic writers. That might be a little simplistic, but simplifying things sometimes helps you keep your thoughts in order. Gothicism in American literature goes way back. You might say American literature as a whole is essentially Gothic. That seems to have been Leslie Fiedler's point in Love and Death in the American Novel (1960), a book I'm reading right now. Southern Gothic in particular is an old strain. If Edgar Allan Poe was a Southern writer, then maybe the strain goes back to him, as so many things do. Writers in the Southern Gothic tradition include William Faulkner, Flannery O'Conner, and Carson McCullers. Lest you think the tradition has died out, more recent authors such as Walker Percy (deceased) and Cormac McCarthy (still living) are also considered part of it. We can't leave out Tennessee Williams of course. Although the others wrote stories of horror, science fiction, and the macabre, only Williams made it into the pages of Weird Tales. Here is an excerpt from his Memoirs (1975):
In my adolescence in St. Louis, at the age of sixteen, several important events in my life occurred. It was in the sixteenth year that I wrote "The Vengeance of Nitocris" and received my first publication in a magazine and the magazine was Weird Tales. The story wasn't published till June of 1928. [It was actually August 1928, when Williams was seventeen.] That same year my grandfather Dakin took me with him on a tour of Europe with a large party of Episcopalian ladies from the Mississippi Delta . . . . And, it was in my sixteenth year that my deep nervous problems approached what might well have been a crisis as shattering as that which broke my sister's mind, lastingly, when she was in her twenties.
I was at sixteen a student at University City High School in St. Louis and the family was living in a cramped apartment at 6254 Enright Avenue.
And a little more:
My younger brother, Dakin, always an indomitable enthusiast of whatever he got into, had turned our little patch of green behind the apartment on Enright into quite an astonishing little vegetable garden. If there were flowers in it, they were, alas, obscured by the profuse growth of squash, pumpkins, and other edible flora. (p. 16)
That's an aside and a segue into the next posting.

Williams went on to study at the University of Missouri and Washington University in St. Louis. It was at the university that he began writing plays. His big break came with The Glass Menagerie (1944). His other plays include A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Orpheus Descending (1957), Suddenly, Last Summer (1958), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), and The Night of the Iguana (1961), all of which were made into movies. For his work, Williams won two Pulitzer Prizes and many other awards. And, as befitting a writer in the Southern Gothic tradition, he died alone in a hotel room either by choking to death on the lid of a medicine bottle or from the effects of drug use. But when he was seventeen, a story in Weird Tales opened a door for him.

Thomas Lanier Williams' Story in Weird Tales
"The Vengeance of Nitocris" (Aug. 1928)

Further Reading
You can read "The Vengeance of Nitocris," which is in the public domain, here.

I previously wrote that E. Phillips Oppenheim may have been the only author to have contributed to Weird Tales who also had his picture on the cover of Time magazine. Well, here's another, Tennessee Williams, from March 9, 1962, with art by Bernard Safran.

Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Lovecraft and the Mass Rock

In searching the past for clues to the present, I have been reading a little about Ireland. My family is from western Ireland, historically a poverty-stricken and now a vastly depopulated place. Sad to say, much of that was because of the British. The Penal Laws of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were among the chief instruments of British oppression. Edmund Burke (1729-1797), an Anglo-Irishman and a man to whom we as Americans owe so much, called the Penal Laws: 
[A] machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.
I leafed through a book the other day and my eyes landed on a page, specifically a quote on that page. The book is Ireland for Beginners by Phil Evans and Eileen Pollock (1983). Here's the quote:
Illicit Catholic worship survive[d] [in the early 1700s] using round flat-top rocks as altars hidden in the woods. (p. 26)
When I read those words, I thought immediately of the altar stones in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft and his associates. Altar stones appear in "The Dunwich Horror," "The Whisperer in Darkness," and "The Colour Out of Space," all by Lovecraft, and "Notebook Found in a Deserted House," by Robert Bloch. In every one of those stories, they are associated with forbidden rites, including human sacrifice and of bringing into our world beings from other places. (1) They are found on hilltops and in backwoods. If you replace the word Catholic with the word Cthulhu in the second quote above, you have a pretty precise description of them. The stone used in Catholic Ireland, by the way, is called a mass rock, or Carraig an Aifrinn.

That brings up two issues. First, the words Cthulhu and Catholic. If you remove the vowels and the last consonant (if h is a consonant) from those words, you get:




Coincidence? Yeah, I think so.

Second and more to the point, H.P. Lovecraft was a pretty WASPy guy, an old New England Protestant Tory. Did that make him anti-Catholic? I have never read anything to suggest that he was anti-Catholic, although as a nativist, he might have been disposed against Catholics and people from Catholic countries, for example, Italians, Spaniards, and Latin Americans. Castro, the old man who knows the story of Cthulhu in "The Call of Cthulhu," leaps to mind as one of that type. He's only one, but I would hazard a guess that there were others.

So was Lovecraft exposed to anti-Catholic feelings remaining from Colonial America, especially from New England, which was first settled by Puritans? And did those feelings find their way into his stories? Rhode Island was founded as a colony of religious freedom. Did that include freedom for Catholics? I would like to think so. I have read that 44% of the people in Rhode Island are Catholic, making the state the most Catholic by percentage of any state in the Union. But how far back does that Catholicism go? To colonial times? I can't say.

In addition to being a WASPish and old-fashioned New Englander, Lovecraft was a fan of the writers and thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Penal Laws were enacted and enforced in Ireland around that time. That was also a time for the casting out of religion in favor of the supremacy of reason in western Europe. Our revolution grew, in part, out of the Age of Reason and the eighteenth century Enlightenment. Unfortunately the French Revolution did, too, and it is still bearing poisoned fruits in the forms of materialism, atheism, leftism, socialism, etc. Lovecraft himself was a materialist or an atheist, a fact S.T. Joshi, an atheist himself, never fails to mention. All that may be beside the point. The point is this: Did the image of the Catholic mass rock, hidden in the woods in a place where forbidden rites were held, survive into the twentieth century? And did it find its way into weird fiction? If so, was it still moored to anti-Catholicism, or had it been cut loose, only to survive as a kind of atavism?

(1) You could say that, in a way, the Catholic Mass is symbolic of human sacrifice and a bringing into the world of a being from another place. Beyond that, we shouldn't forget that the story of the resurrection of Cthulhu is similar to the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that similarity to have been unintentional, but you never know.

H.P. Lovecraft in eighteenth century dress, by Virgil Finlay.

Copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, October 19, 2015

Notes on "The Colour Out of Space"

I recently reread "The Colour Out of Space" by H.P. Lovecraft, a story composed in March 1927 and published in Amazing Stories in September of that year. I won't analyze the story. Instead I'll just put down some notes.

Here's the cover of the issue of Amazing Stories in which "The Colour Out of Space" appeared:

Cover art by Frank R. Paul.

"The Colour Out of Space" was obviously not the cover story, but the oversized plants give a person pause. Here's a quote from Lovecraft's story:
Stephen Rice had driven past Gardner's in the morning, and had noticed the skunk-cabbages coming up through the mud by the woods across the road. Never were things of such size seen before, and they held strange colours that could not be put into any words. Their shapes were monstrous, and the horse had snorted at an odour which struck Stephen as wholly unprecedented. That afternoon several persons drove past to see the abnormal growth, and all agreed that plants of that kind ought never to sprout in a healthy world.
Below is an image of the dust jacket of Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, published in 1969 by Arkham House. "The Colour Out of Space" is not in that book, but the monstrous skunk cabbages seem to have made it into Lee Brown Coye's drawing:

Or maybe that's a jack-in-the-pulpit on the right.

"The Colour Out of Space" had been reprinted two years before in 3 Tales of Horror. Here is Coye's dust jacket design for that book:

The illustration here is in fact of "The Colour Out of Space." Those are the corpses of Nahum Gardner's two sons, Merwin and Zenas, sunk in the poisoned well outside his house. Today is the anniversary of the death of Thaddeus Gardner, Nahum's oldest son, which took place on October 19, 1882. You don't want to know what happened to him. Or if you do, just read the story. By coincidence, this is also the anniversary of the death of John E. Vetter, a friend of Coye and a fan and collector of Lovecraft. He died on October 19, 2002, at age seventy.

Once you've read enough stories and seen enough movies, they start to stick in your head and the similarities among them stand out. I'm not sure that similarities signify that one writer is influenced or inspired by another or that he or she is copying or swiping from another. I'll just say that I can see similarities among "The Colour Out of Space," The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1897), the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) (remember the crumbling?), and The Blob (1958). The Blob is especially like "The Colour Out of Space," at least at the beginning.

In reading about Lovecraft's story, I came across the idea that the author wanted to create a truly alien and incomprehensible being. I was on the lookout for indications of that in "The Colour Out of Space." Nahum Gardner himself says it:
" . . . dun't know what it wants . . . ."
The phrase is ambiguous at first glance. Is it that Nahum "dun't know what it wants"? Or is it the entity itself that "dun't know what it wants"? But then Nahum says, in reference to his wife, ". . . dun't know how long sense I fed her . . . ." It seems clear, then, that Nahum doesn't know what the entity wants. In its utter alienness, the entity cannot be understood. And that makes me think of Solaris by Stanislaw Lem (1961), a novel about a truly alien intelligence.

Text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

More Whip-poor-wills

At PulpFest, I saw a copy of Whispers #10, from 1977. The cover drawing is by Frank Utpatel (1905-1980). It drew my eye because of the whip-poor-wills in flight:

On July 14, 2015, I wrote about whip-poor-wills in weird fiction. I included the following image by Lee Brown Coye (1907-1981):

Coye's drawing is an illustration for "The Whippoorwills in the Hills" by August Derleth, from Weird Tales, September 1948. Coye also created the cover illustration for that issue:

There aren't any whip-poor-wills on the cover, but according to Jaffery and Cook's Collector's Index to Weird Tales, "The Whippoorwills in the Hills" was indeed the cover story.

Coye clearly worked from John James Audubon's paintings of whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will's widows:

It's clear that Frank Utpatel did as well, at least for the bird in the upper part of his composition, which is simply a reversed image of Audubon's whip-poor-will. The bird perched on the fencepost may simply be a copy from a field guide, such as the Golden field guide to Birds of North America (1966).

Coye and Utpatel were near contemporaries. Both worked for Weird Tales, Arkham House, and Whispers. Both continued working up until their deaths, and both had drawings published in the year that they died. In Utpatel's case, those were for issues of The August Derleth Society Newsletter. Incidentally, during the 1960s, Derleth published a magazine of verse. The title was Hawk and Whip-Poor-Will: Poems of Man and Nature.

Text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Bittersweet Fortnight in 1969

At PulpFest, I bought two TV tie-in novels of The Prisoner. I've read them both and liked No. 2 (the novel) better than No. 3. In reading about The Prisoner, I found an interesting coincidence:

On Tuesday, September 2, 1969, the original run of Star Trek came to an end with a repeat of the episode "Requiem for Methuselah." The last line of dialogue in that last episode was spoken by Mr. Spock to ease the heartbreak and pain of his friend, Captain Kirk. The line was a single word: "Forget."

Nine days later, on Thursday, September 11, the last episode of The Prisoner was broadcast. It, too, was a repeat, the last in a series that had been a summer replacement show in 1968 and 1969, despite the fact that there was only one season (17 episodes) made. Thus, in the space of less than a fortnight at the beginning of September 1969, two of the very best television shows ever made ended. The consolation was that Star Trek went into syndication immediately. The first syndicated episode was broadcast on Monday, September 8, 1969. Fans of The Prisoner would have to wait many more years before getting a chance to see their favorite show again. Thankfully, both are now available on video.

Copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Edgar Allan Poe and James Whitcomb Riley

Today is a day of two anniversaries. On this date in 1849, Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore at age forty. The circumstances of his death remain mysterious. Also on this date in 1849, James Whitcomb Riley was born in Greenfield, Indiana. Two generations, six hundred miles, and the veil of death separated them. How could they ever have been connected? Both were poets. Of the two, only Edgar Allan Poe was published in Weird Tales. Riley could have been, as he wrote about ghosts, witches, and goblins. His verse even earned him a place in Dark of the Moon: Poems of Fantasy and the Macabre, edited by August Derleth and published by Arkham House in 1947. Poe was also in that volume, as were H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, among many others. But that wasn't a connection so much as an association. The connection between Poe and Riley was far older than that. It had come about seventy years before, in fact, in July 1877, when Riley, then twenty-seven, conspired to perpetrate a hoax on the reading public by passing off his poem "Leonainie," as an undiscovered work by Edgar Allan Poe. On August 2, 1877, the Kokomo Dispatch, its editor in on the hoax, published the poem:

Leonainie--angels named her;
And they took the light
Of the laughing stars and framed her
In a smile of white:
And they made her hair of gloomy
Midnight, and her eyes of bloomy
Moonshine, and they brought her to me
In the solemn night.--

In a solemn night of summer,
When my heart of gloom
Blossomed up to meet the comer
Like a rose in bloom;
All the forebodings that distressed me
I forgot as joy caressed me--
(Lying joy that caught and pressed me
In the arms of doom!)

Only spake the little lisper
In the angel-tongue;
Yet I, listening, heard her whisper,--
"Songs are only sung
Here below that they may grieve you--
Tales are told you to deceive you--
So must Leonainie leave you
While her love is young."

Then God smiled and it was morning,
Matchless and supreme;
Heaven's glory seemed adorning
Earth with its esteem:
Every heart but mine seemed gifted
With the voice of prayer, and lifted
Where my Leonainie drifted
From me like a dream.

It didn't take long for the hoax to fall through. Newspapers all over the country were quick to recognize it and to comment on the poem and its then unknown author:

From the New York Evening Post (Aug. 7): ". . . a poetic sin has been laid at [Poe's] door . . . ."

From the Philadelphia Commonwealth (Aug. 8): "The gin mills of Maryland and the Old Dominion never turned out liquor bad enough to debase the genius of Poe to the level of these wretched verses."

From the Baltimore American (Aug. 9): "The unfortunate poet [Poe] was no doubt guilty of many indiscretions, but it is hard to suppose that in his most eccentric mood he could ever have penned such wretched doggerel as that which is now attempted to be fastened on him under the name of 'Leonainie'."

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Aug. 9): "The composition is wild enough to have been written under the influence of Egyptian or Terre Haute whiskey, and possesses, therefore, what an eminent journalist of this city defines as a local flavor."

And this tantalizing possibility:

From the Nashville Daily American (Aug. 10): "[Poe] will surely pay his respects to the scalp of the Indiana man who brought it out."

On August 25, the Kokomo Tribune, rival paper to the Dispatch, printed an exposé. James Whitcomb Riley was implicated as the author, and the editor of the Dispatch as his co-conspirator. Both suffered damage to their reputations. Riley lost his job. But he didn't stay down for long, and by the end of his life, all had been forgiven, as he was loved and cherished as the "Hoosier Poet" and the "Children's Poet." Even his poem was redeemed in the collection Armazindy, published on this date in 1894. In any case, Happy Birthday to the Hoosier Poet! And R.I.P. to E.A.P.

James Flora's illustration for "Nine Little Goblins" by James Whitcomb Riley, a poem reprinted in the book A Red Skelton in Your Closet (1965).

I would like to acknowledge the website James Whitcomb Riley, at this URL:

for information used to write this article.

Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Weird Tales Books

The Adventures of Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn (1976)

Seabury Quinn (1889-1969) wrote more stories than anyone for Weird Tales and for a longer period of time, from 1923 to 1952, almost the entire run of the magazine. If my count is right, Quinn placed 146 stories in "The Unique Magazine" in those years. Ninety-three of them were in the continuing adventures of his occult detective, Jules de Grandin. Of those 146, seven were reprinted in The Adventures of Jules de Grandin in 1976. They include the first of the de Grandin stories, "The Horror on the Links," retitled for the book "Terror on the Links."

A dealer at PulpFest recommended the Jules de Grandin stories to me. I have just one of the five Popular Library reprint books of the 1970s. These books are hard to come by at a decent price. I was lucky enough to find one at Half Price Books, one of the world's greatest stores, for just two dollars. I finally finished it this weekend.

Here's what I think: Seabury Quinn set up his series seemingly with the Sherlock Holmes series in mind. Jules de Grandin is French rather than British. Nonetheless, he is, like his predecessor, eccentric and seemingly all-knowing. Eccentric is probably a kind word. I find him to be annoying as all get-out. His assistant, Dr. Trowbridge, plays the Dr. Watson role as recorder and narrator of de Grandin's adventures. Unlike Watson, Dr. Trowbridge is grouchy, obtuse, and practically useless. You can lay the blame at the author's feet.

Despite all that, Quinn was, over all, a good writer. Certain of his scenes are unforgettable, as in "The Man Who Cast No Shadow" when de Grandin destroys a vampire in her grave and discovers another in his underground lair. In short, I will keep looking for the Jules de Grandin books, but not at the prevailing price. One thing dealers should realize is that their clientele is probably beginning to disappear. The generations that first read pulp magazines and even paperback books are passing from the earth. I doubt that the prices they once paid will hold for very much longer.

The Adventures of Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn
Edited by Robert Weinberg
(Popular Library, 1976)
Cover art by Vincent di Fate; illustrations by Steve Fabian, including a map of Harrisonville, New Jersey, and portrait drawings of Jules de Grandin and Dr. Trowbridge based on drawings by Virgil Finlay
"A Sherlock of the Supernatural" by Lin Carter
"By Way of Explanation" by Seabury Quinn (originally in The Phantom-Fighter [?] by Seabury Quinn, Mycroft & Moran, 1966)
"Terror on the Links" (originally "The Horror on the Links," Weird Tales, Oct. 1925; reprinted May 1937)
"The Tenants of Broussac" (Weird Tales, Dec. 1925)
"The Isle of Missing Ships" (Weird Tales, Feb. 1926)
"The Dead Hand" (Weird Tales, May 1926)
"The Man Who Cast No Shadow" (Weird Tales, Feb. 1927)
"The Blood Flower" (originally "The Blood-Flower," Weird Tales, Mar. 1927)
"The Curse of Everard Maundy" (Weird Tales, July 1927)
"Afterword" by Robert Weinberg

Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Conservative vs. the Zombie

A year ago this weekend, I ended my seemingly interminable series "What is the monster of the twenty-first century?" with the conclusion that zombies, representing mass man and his desire to dehumanize, consume, and ultimately eradicate the individual human being, are the monsters of our time. Today (Oct. 3, 2015) I read an opinion piece more or less along those lines. (Like I've said before, it's nice when your theorizing is confirmed by others.) The piece is called "In the Zombie World, Only the Conservative Survive." It's by David French, an attorney and staff writer at the National Review. You can find it by clicking here.

Mr. French's essay opens with these words:
          The Obama era is the era of the zombie. It is a strange irony that the politician of "hope and change" has presided over a pop-culture world dominated by shuffling, moaning, undead cannibals who mindlessly rule a post-government apocalyptic landscape.
I might argue that it's no irony at all, being that our current president is the leader and apotheosis of mass man. In any case, the angle of the essay is skepticism towards government and faith in the individual, especially in the the well-armed individual living out what can only be called conservative principles. Mr. French writes: "In zombieland, there are three kinds of people: those who know how to use guns, those who learn how to use guns, and zombies." It's strange that he would include zombies in the category of people, but if zombies don't represent monsters or disease or some alien force so much as they represent mass man or simply the fallen state of man, then they should probably be included in that category.

In my essay of last year, I wondered whether the zombie-like people among us see themselves as such, just like I wondered in the 1980s whether the creeps among us saw themselves as the creeps in the high school movies of the time. The answer then was probably the same as the answer now: No, probably not. Another quote to that point from "In the Zombie World, Only the Conservative Survive":
Yet despite these [conservative-minded] premises, the Left loves this show [The Walking Dead or TWD]. Read Huffington Post or Salon or virtually any other lefty site that follows pop culture, and they’re dissecting TWD, breaking down and analyzing episodes with loving care. 
So the answer appears to be no, period. That leads to the conclusion I have made, and that Mr. French seems to make as well, that ultimately all people are conservative in that conservatism is simply a fact of life. It's the way people live when they are free.

That got me thinking about another point I left out of my series from last year (as if I left anything out). The heroes of our literature and popular culture embody conservative values: courage, strength, self-reliance, self-actuation, individual character, love of freedom, pursuit of justice, and so on. Odysseus doesn't try to understand his enemies. He kills them. The men, elves, dwarves, and hobbits of Middle Earth don't take an invasion of their world by masses simply by lying down, nor do they wish to surrender their rights or freedoms to a prevailing force. They resist. Daryl on The Walking Dead doesn't believe in a democracy in which the dehumanizing and all-consuming mass man has his way. Instead he pierces their brains with bolts from his crossbow. The leftist hero on the other hand--Che Guevara, Mao, Lenin--is a thug, a criminal, a mass murderer, in short a mass man who wishes to strip his fellow human beings of their rights, freedoms, property, and lives, more importantly, of their individual identity, dignity, and humanity. Again, we are Winston and Julia, the leftist hero is O'Brien. Like O'Brien--and like Number 2 in The Prisoner--he wants not so much to kill us as to make us one of him, to get us to conform. He wants us no longer to be individuals. So can the Leftist identify in any way with Winston or Number 6? I would say no, for the Leftist doesn't value freedom or individuality. If that's so, then how can the Leftist identify with the human beings in The Walking Dead against the zombies, whose sole desire is to render the individual one of the mindless masses? Again, I would argue that he can't. If you call yourself a leftist--or in the parlance of our times, a liberal--and you identify with human beings over zombies, you are a traitor to your beliefs--and loyal to the inescapable fact of your humanity.

Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Update on Tellers of Weird Tales

I have four series going at once:
  1. My categorizing of Weird Tales covers, which began on January 2, 2014, with "The Eternal Triangle: Man, Woman, and Monster."
  2. The A. Merritt Art Gallery, which began on May 16, 2015, with "A. Merritt Art Gallery-Through the Dragon Glass."
  3. A series on Utopia vs. Dystopia, Classicism vs. Romanticism, Reason vs. Gothicism, and science fiction vs. fantasy, which began on June 15, 2015, with "The Iron Heel and 1984-Part One," and which I plan to conclude with a discussion of William Gibson and Neuromancer.
  4. Notes from PulpFest, an event now nearly two months gone. This series began on August 16, 2015, with "Notes from PulpFest-The Mystery of the Missing Magazine." Still to come: Leo Margulies, Theodore Roscoe, and the highlight of PulpFest for me, Jon Arfstrom.
I'll probably finish those series in reverse order. But first, an interlude or two . . . or three or . . . .

Weird Tales, September 1953, a British edition with a cover by Jon Arfstrom.

Text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley